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Plan ahead to avoid dangers of going green, groups urge  

Going green shouldn’t mean getting killed.

That’s the message two groups are promoting as the province pushes ahead with wind power and the possibility of allowing more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road.

Crop dusters say the spread of gigantic wind turbines creates a hazard for pilots, while members of the blind community say hybrid and electric cars make no noise, posing a potentially deadly hazard for blind pedestrians.

Groups representing the blind and aerial sprayers have written to the Doer government outlining their concerns.

“When a car is in motion it’s not a problem,” said Susan Dewalt, manager of client services for the Manitoba branch of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. “It’s when it’s idling.”

Dewalt said a blind person, not hearing an idling hybrid or electric car, could step into its path seconds before it starts moving.

“The issue for the blind is the use of sound to know when it’s safe to cross the street,” she said. “When the car is idling it makes no sound. If they go to cross and the car starts up, therein is the danger.”

Richard Campbell of the Alliance For The Ethical Treatment of Blind Canadians said one idea to fix the problem would be putting a device in quiet hybrids that emits a slight beeping sound when idling or traveling at low speed through intersections or parking lots. Campbell was an auto electric technician before he lost his sight.

He said manufacturers and government should deal with the issue now rather than wait until when more electric cars are on the road and someone gets killed.

In Manitoba, only electric-gas hybrids are allowed on the road.

They operate on battery power at low speeds and gas at higher speeds.

But the province is currently looking at re-jigging its road laws to allow fully electric cars on the road.

There are currently 1,181 hybrid vehicles registered in Manitoba – 567 of them bought in 2007.

That’s a drop in the bucket as 532,947 passenger vehicles, 173,137 light trucks and 10,258 motorcycles were registered in 2007.

Meanwhile, Bob Morse of the Manitoba Aerial Applicators Association said Manitoba Hydro’s plans to add more wind farms to valuable farm land increases the danger to pilots.

Some aerial sprayers already won’t operate in the St. Leon area in south-west Manitoba where there are 63 wind towers. They’re concerned the Doer government is moving too quickly on expansion as it could take fertile farmland out of production.

Hydro is currently looking at adding more windmills at 10 locations in the province. The locations have not become public yet.

Morse said one area under consideration is near Portage La Prairie on prime land used to grow potatoes.

“With potatoes you have to spray eight or nine times a year,” he said. “What will be the value of production if you can’t spray?’

Morse said the province would be better off choosing marginal land for the wind towers, like pasture or bush in the Interlake.

David Huggill, western policy manager of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said only a few pilots have expressed concerns about crop-dusting near wind farms. He said there is no evidence the wind towers pose a danger to aerial applicators.

Winnipeg Free Press

19 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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